UK Police Partner Up With Ring To Hand Out Free Surveillance Doorbells
The internet-enabled devices, which start at £89 ($110), are used by many people globally to deter intruders, while also capturing video footage that can act as evidence.
The cameras are triggered by movement and start recording when someone comes to the door, in turn notifying the householder by mobile.
The Sunday Times asked 43 police forces in England and Wales if they were working with Ring to provide the doorbell cameras to residents living in areas with a risk of burglary.
Out of the 33 who responded, nearly half admitted to working with the Amazon-owned company to offer vouchers entitling people to money off the doorbells.
A total of four forces - Suffolk, Leicestershire, Humberside and Hertfordshire - also admitted Ring had given them devices to hand out.
But while the newspaper reports that the partnership has been welcomed by the Neighbourhood Watch, it has also led to widespread criticism about potential privacy concerns.
Hannah Couchman, policy expert at the human rights organisation Liberty, has condemned the deal, saying it is 'patently inappropriate'.
Claiming in some circumstances police could get a warrant forcing people to provide footage, she added: "The blurring of the line between law enforcement and private companies is a real concern."
Griff Ferris, a legal officer at Big Brother Watch, has also referred to the partnership as 'a chilling Amazon-sponsored police project to extend the surveillance state on to people's property' that 'must be stopped'.
However, Detective Superintendent Andy Smith of Suffolk Police has said the partnership is 'massively powerful', and that it has already led to the capture of several criminals.
Suffolk Police were apparently handed 1,000 doorbells to dish out for free, and the Met Police will reportedly also be able to sign a £243,000 ($300k) deal with Ring to hand out a further 1,000.
Smith said: "We have had at least four prolific criminals captured as a consequence of Ring doorbells."
It's not just the UK where this is happening, either.
CNET reported that Ring users are supposed to provide doorbell footage at their discretion, but police have attempted to 'require' exchanges of data.
Houston Police Department appeared to confirm such allegations back in March, saying: "HPD will be able to send alerts to the neighbour's app. Such as crime and safety incidents in real time, request information about local crime and safety from neighbours who option in to sharing for a particular request, and work with the local community to build trust and to make the community safer."
In a statement, Ring criticised moves to necessitate the sharing of footage, saying: "Ring does not support programs that require recipients to subscribe to a recording plan or that footage from Ring devices be shared as a condition for receiving a donated device."
Featured Image Credit: PA